Teachers teach because they have a drive to do so. We all know it’s certainly not for the money. (Cue the laugh track, we have all heard that one before!) We want to shape students into independent thinkers and learners. We want to teach them about life and about how to live it in a valuable way. That’s why I became a teacher. And that’s why I want to become an educational administrator. Think of all the students I could influence by being a leader in the educational world. Instead of the 120 or so students I see on a daily basis, I could reach twenty teachers, who reach 120 students. The math clearly states that I could influence 2,400 students. Wow. That’s big. Think about that. As an educational administrator you can reach thousands—not just hundreds, but thousands—of children. Take that in for a moment. It’s a big deal.
So now you have all these young minds at stake. You must be sure that your ideas, actions, directives, advice, feedback, and interactions with others lead you toward the same ultimate goal that you have always had—teaching the students how to be functional and thoughtful citizens of this country and this world. How do you go about doing this as an educational administrator? The list is lengthy.
First, listen to your teachers. You can go into classrooms and observe teachers for 20-40 minutes and see the students, but that is a snapshot of, what is most likely, a well-prepared lesson on a good day. (Listen, we have all been there. You know you’re being observed? You step it up, just a tad.) The teachers are in the trenches all day with the same kids every day. They are your best resource when it comes to knowing your population (which is also on the list). Rely on them. It is not a sign of weakness if you do. It is a sign that you care about your job and each of the 2,400 students you impact via your work.
By listening to your teachers you will get to know the population of your district if you don’t already. Know your clientele. (In this case, it’s the students.) You need to know them as a whole, know them as various subgroups, and even get to know them as individuals. Be present in the hallways and the classrooms. Not every walk through or observation needs to be formal. Go into classes. Talk with kids. Team teach. Build relationships with your teachers and your students. (Yes, I said your students. That was not a typo—they are yours just as much as they are the teachers’.)
This next one is tough. Are you ready? You don’t know it all. And it’s okay. What is not okay, is not educating yourself on the latest laws, mandates, classroom strategies, recent population, etc. (That list goes on. And on. And on.) Do you know the best way to learn things you don’t know? Read. Talk to people. Ask questions. Engage in conversations with people who are closest to the students. Please, whatever you do, don’t pretend to know something. That’s more damaging than just admitting you don’t know.
This brings me to the next point. Don’t be stubborn, either. Should you be assertive? Yes. Helpful? Always. Collaborative? No doubt about it. But pushing your agenda on the teachers and students is not focusing on the clients—it’s focusing on you. Being an educational administrator is not about accolades and awards. If that’s what you’re looking for, please find a job in the private sector where such things occur regularly. Being an educational administrator is finding the best way to reach the students and help them succeed. If you stray from this idea, you are doing a disservice to our kids.
Understand, future educational leaders, I am not saying your ideas are not worthy, valuable, or awesome, for that matter. They very well may be. But people will disagree on justifiable grounds and it’s your job to listen to them. (Yes, it is your job. You work for the kids. You owe it to them to listen to the people they interact with every day.) These people are not shutting you down. Your brilliant idea is not thrown away. Look what you have done. You have started a debate. And from that, you will find middle ground, and maybe an even better, more worthy, more valuable and more awesome idea.
Every good teacher, administrator, worker, and person goes rogue every once in a while. And I encourage you, yes you, future administrators, to do the same. Mandates are important. Absolutely. But remember, who are your clients? The kids. At the end of the day you need to do what is best for them. Must you implement directives? Of course! But that does that you mean you do every single thing by the book. Sometimes the book needs to be closed and common sense needs to prevail. Go rogue, people! It’s freeing. Try it.
In the end, be sure to support your teachers. It’s the best way to support the thousands of students you impact. Don’t hide behind email or in your office. Go visit your teachers and engage in their work. Don’t be afraid to get to know your students on a personal level. Make yourself available to everyone who needs you. Teachers need you. (Buy them lunch a few times a year just to show your appreciation for all they do.) Kids need you. (Ask about their latest soccer game or school play.) Be present. Be positive. Be effective. Care about your work. But most of all, just know that what you do influences thousands of people—albeit, young, sometimes very little people, but people. Those people who will be taking care of us in the future. Let’s do right by them and take care of them now.